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ireland, irish, ulster, ireland, irish, ulster, Sinn Féin, Irish America

Fiddling while Belfast burns

(Liam Clarke, Belfast Telegraph)

It is hard to credit that an Assembly motion calling for "inclusivity, mutual respect, peace and democracy" and condemning "all acts of violence and intimidation" should have got bogged down in procedural squabbling.

It seemed like fiddling while Belfast burned.

Mitchel McLaughlin of Sinn Féin said an opportunity was missed to send a clear united message as we lurch through another week of potentially violent protests.

It was a near miss. Everyone was agreed on the broad principles but the DUP bridled at praise for the "spirit of the Good Friday Agreement" and moved an amendment which instead "recognises Northern Ireland's position as part of the United Kingdom".

That triggered a blocking Petition of Concern from nationalists. As a result there will be no vote until Monday.

The debate was often fractious and point scoring. When Mr McLaughlin said he recognised the constitutional position of Northern Ireland he was challenged to go further and condemn the IRA. He responded by saying the IRA dead were regarded as "heroic figures" in his own community.

This combination of whataboutery and knee jerk response will drag society down if pursued.

Yesterday's debate illustrates why there is a feeling of disengagement and cynicism with politics.

Between now and Monday the party leaders should get together and find a way of passing the motion unanimously. Society needs to hear them speaking with one strong confident voice.

If they can't address this crisis as one then what are we paying them for?

January 17, 2013
________________

This article appeared in the January 16, 2013 edition of the Belfast Telegraph.

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